Date of Conferral







James Herndon


Commercial nuclear power utilities are under pressure to effectively recruit and retain licensed reactor operators in light of poor candidate training completion rates and recent candidate failures on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) license exam. One candidate failure can cost a utility over $400,000, making the successful licensing of new operators a critical path to operational excellence. This study was designed to discover if the NEO-PI-3, a 5-factor measure of personality, could improve selection in nuclear utilities by identifying personality factors that predict license candidate success. Two large U.S. commercial nuclear power corporations provided potential participant contact information and candidate results on the 2014 NRC exam from their nuclear power units nation-wide. License candidates who participated (n = 75) completed the NEO-PI-3 personality test and results were compared to 3 outcomes on the NRC exam: written exam, simulated operating exam, and overall exam result. Significant correlations were found between several personality factors and both written and operating exam outcomes on the NRC exam. Further, a regression analysis indicated that personality factors, particularly Conscientiousness, predicted simulated operating exam scores. The results of this study may be used to support the use of the NEO-PI-3 to improve operator selection as an addition to the current selection protocol. Positive social change implications from this study include support for the use of a personality measure by utilities to improve their return-on-investment in candidates and by individual candidates to avoid career failures. The results of this study may also positively impact the public by supporting the safe and reliable operation of commercial nuclear power utilities in the United States.